Saint Eustace, the largest of Albrecht Dürer’s engravings, is considered one of the artist's finest. This scene depicts Eustace, the patron saint of hunters, in 15th-century clothing and reveals Dürer’s consummate skill in the representation of animals, plants, and landscape.
According to legend, a Roman general named Placidus was hunting when Christ appeared to him as a white stag with a radiant crucifix between its antlers. This vision prompted Placidus to convert to Christianity, and he was baptized Eustace, which means “faithful” in Greek. After he refused to make a pagan sacrifice, Emperor Hadrian condemned Eustace and Eustace's family to be roasted inside a bronze statue of a bull. Saint Eustace was particularly revered in the 15th and 16th centuries.
As an artist for whom the close study of nature was paramount, Dürer employed the stag hunt in the forest as an opportunity to display his skills. An homage to Flemish landscape paintings, this engraving’s composition was also influenced by Pisanello’s painting The Vision of Saint Eustace. During Dürer’s lifetime, the painting was in Verona and therefore on the artist’s travel route when Dürer visited Italy in 1495 and 1496.